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JONES v. LOCAL 4B

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA


October 9, 1984

THELMA JONES, Plaintiff,
v.
LOCAL 4B, GRAPHIC ARTS INTERNATIONAL UNION, AFL-CIO, et al., Defendants

The opinion of the court was delivered by: RICHEY

OPINION OF THE HONORABLE CHARLES R. RICHEY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

 The origin of this case before the court, involving attorney's fees, was a sex discrimination case involving Thelma E. Jones and the Local 4-B Graphic Arts International Union, AFL-CIO, based under Title VII and 42 U.S.C. ยง 1988. That suit resulted first in a temporary restraining order and finally in a Consent Judgment to which the union agreed as follows: to stop the discriminatory activity, grant Thelma Jones a position as Recording Secretary of the Local 4B, and pay her the sum of $15,000.00 in compensatory damages. However, the court retained jurisdiction to determine the amount of attorneys' fees and costs, if any, that would be awarded to the plaintiff for the services of her attorneys.

 This immediate action began with a motion filed by the plaintiff on March 26, 1982. After appropriate responses were received, this Court issued an order of March 31, 1983 directing both sides to confer on this matter in an effort to settle. Obviously, no successful settlement has been reached in over one year since that date. The Court finds the plaintiff, Thelma E. Jones, to be the "prevailing party" and, as such, entitled to reasonable attorneys' fees. In relationship to these fees, the arguments of the defendants do not persuade this Court to downwardly adjust the lodestar figure. The Court also finds no merit in the allegations that these funds are in trust, involve contractual obligations, or fall under the purview of ERISA. For the reasons set forth below in the opinion, the Court, by order of even date herewith has decided to award the plaintiff attorneys' fees with costs in the amount of $33,095.99.

 PLAINTIFF THELMA E. JONES WAS THE "PREVAILING PARTY" SINCE SHE RECEIVED DAMAGES, AND, A POSITION AS WELL AS A BROAD INJUNCTION.

 The defendants first contend that the plaintiff was not a "prevailing party" because a settlement had been obtained. This argument is not consistent with the clear holding of the Supreme Court, as stated in Maher v. Gagne, 448 U.S. 122, at p. 130, 65 L. Ed. 2d 653, 100 S. Ct. 2570 (1980):

 

. . . the fact that respondent prevailed through a settlement rather than through litigation does not weaken her claim to fees . . . . Moreover, the Senate Report expressly stated that for the purposes of the award of counsel fees, parties may be considered to have prevailed when they vindicate rights through a consent judgment or without formally obtaining relief. U.S. Rep. No. 94-1011 p. 5 (1976). U.S. Code Cong. & Admin. News 1976 pp. 5908, 5912.

 Using the test in Maher, the issue of the plaintiff being a prevailing party rests on whether her rights have been "vindicated." As stated before, this consent judgment, outside of granting a broad injunction against discrimination, gave the plaintiff, Thelma E. Jones $15,000 in damages and a position as recording secretary. The Union only received a pledge not to sue. It is clear that Ms. Jones prevailed, and that she has had her rights substantially "vindicated." This Court, therefore, finds no merit in defendants' claim that Ms. Jones was not the prevailing party because of the Consent Judgment.

 THERE WERE NO PERSUASIVE ARGUMENTS LEADING TO A DOWNWARD ADJUSTMENT OF THE LODESTAR FIGURE. THEREFORE, THE LODESTAR REQUESTED IS THE REASONABLE FEE.

 The United States Court of Appeals held in Copeland v. Marshall, 205 U.S. App. D.C. 390, 641 F.2d 880 (1980), that the calculation of attorneys' fees begins with an establishment of a "lodestar," arrived at simply by multiplying "the number of hours reasonably expended by a reasonable hourly rate." (Supra p. 892). Further, this figure can be adjusted up or down depending on the particular circumstances of the case. The burden of such an adjustment, however, rests on the party proposing the deviation. See, also: Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 103 S. Ct. 1933, 76 L. Ed. 2d 40 (1983); National Ass'n of Concerned Veterans v. Secretary of Defense, 219 U.S. App. D.C. 94, 675 F.2d 1319 (1982); Environmental Defense Fund v. Environmental Protection Agency, 217 U.S. App. D.C. 189, 672 F.2d 42 (1982). This has been the law because of the presumption in favor of attorney's fees in civil rights cases, Northcross v. Board of Education, 412 U.S. 427, 37 L. Ed. 2d 48, 93 S. Ct. 2201 (1973). *fn1" In this case the plaintiff claims attorneys' fees at the regular rates and hours as follows: n2 Hours Rate Lodestar Mr. Dorsen (194.75 x 120) = 23,370.00 ( 45.00 x 135) = 6,075.00 Mr. Weinman ( .25 x 100) = 25.00 Ms. Gibbons (24.75 x 50) = 1,237.50 (12.75 x 55) = 701.25 Mr. Boggs ( 2.75 x 100) = 275.00 $31,683.75

19841009

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